Austin police have released the surveillance video of white Texas grandfather Scott Henson being handcuffed on the night of Feb. 10, 2012, in an effort to disprove his claim that officers were “rough” and came at him “tasers drawn” while he was walking home from a local ice skating rink with his 5-year-old black granddaughter Ty. Henson called the incident a case of “baby-sitting while white.”
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told the American Statesman in a news conference Tuesday that Henson lied about having had tasers drawn on him, and that if the surveillance video is watched carefully, it can also be seen that APD officers did not use excessive force.
APD says they were responding to an anonymous 911 call from someone who claimed to have seen a white man (Henson) chasing a little African-American girl (Ty) into the woods. On his blog, Grits For Breakfast, Henson notes in his post from the night after the incident that this was the second time local police had approached him and his granddaughter that day, leading him to feel that it was a case of racial profiling.
“Had that been a real, legitimate kidnapping, and we would have responded with one or two officers in a nonchalant manner, the same exact critics that are criticizing us now would be saying that the Austin police department does not care about an African-American little girl being kidnapped from the Millennium Center,” Acevedo told American Statesman.
WATCH THE SURVEILLANCE VIDEO BELOW:
Six days after the incident, Henson had the opportunity to sit down with Acevedo to view the surveillance video and read through the police report. The next day, he posted a “correction” to his Feb. 11 blog post, saying:
There are really only two corrections I’d make having now seen the videos and other documentation Chief Acevedo showed me. First, I recollected in the blog post that an officer had a taser drawn and from the video the officer’s arm was only crooked and prepared to draw. It happened in a flash and like many eyewitnesses, when under a perceived threat, my mind filled in some pieces erroneously, I’ll be the first to admit in light of the video evidence. It was not an intentional error. That said, I correctly perceived that all of a sudden a LOT of cops were on us out of nowhere and if I’d made any sudden or untoward moves I’d be tased or worse. I think it wasn’t unreasonable for either of us to feel threatened by them rolling up on us like that.
The other error was that the original post cast unfair blame on the deputy constable. Her report said that after we’d spoken, she was heading back to the Millennium Center thinking the incident was over when the dispatcher patched into the constable’s frequency because they’d heard from the Millennium Center she’d gone after us. In the dispatcher’s audio, she tells APD just before they roll up on us that she’d spoken to us, gave them Ty’s name and told them I was her grandpa. Though I blamed her (unfairly) both at the scene and in the initial post, falsely thinking she’d called in the cavalry, she did not.
Basically, two departments with overlapping jurisdictions responded to this complaint, the first response coming from a single officer of the IMO, the second (several patrol cars) coming from the APD.
“What Mr. Henson described, that our officers came out, jumped out, a gaggle of officers — and I’m paraphrasing — with their tasers pointed at him — when you see this video, you will see that simply is not the case,” Acevedo said.
Although Henson made haste to correct himself before APD publicly addressed the issue, he reasserts that their approach could have been different.
In his Feb. 19 blog post following the “corrections,” he paraphrases what he said to the police chief after releasing the surveillance video: “I don’t believe what those officers did violated any law, departmental policy or court ruling. I never said otherwise. It was completely ‘by the book.’ But there are some really good books that may not be completely appropriate for a five-year old. I’m not saying don’t investigate, I’m saying exercise some self-restraint, discretion and common sense — like the deputy did.”
Acevedo said he feels that Henson owes the Austin Police Department an apology, and that their quick response shows that the safety of a child and not race was a factor in this case.